http://www.scrabble-assoc.com/ — the National Scrabble Association website. Includes details of championship games, locations of clubs in the US and Canada, membership registration, and Scrabble trinkets for sale.

http://www.isc.ro/en/index.html — the Internet Scrabble Club. Instructions for playing Scrabble online in real time from a Java interface.

http://aa.zyzzyvas.com — hundreds of lists of words that can help improve your game. Also includes many links to more Scrabble info sites, and a dictionary lookup feature.

http://www.carolravi.com/ — The LeXpert home site. Download a free program for looking up Scrabble words and study lists.

In a word: It’s fun Girardin family members will team up to try to win ScrabbleFest – again.

It’s something that has been passed down through three generations of the Girardin family. At various holidays and other celebrations, the family pulls it out and sets it down on the table to enjoy. For the Girardins, there is nothing like a good game of Scrabble.

“It’s a family tradition,” says Muriel, “matriarch” of the family. “I’m not sure exactly how long we’ve been playing.”

“At least since the 1960s, I’d have to say,” her husband, Mike, interjects. “My sister brought it with her when she visited us from Washington one time. We never played before then.”

“That’s right,” Muriel agrees with a smile. “All it took was that one time, and we were hooked.”

The Girardins are one of many families who picked up on Scrabble during the game’s early years. To many people, it may seem as if this word game has been around for ages. In reality, Scrabble made its official debut in 1948. However, it took years of work and planning by creator Alfred Mosher Butts, to get the game’s concept and appearance of the game.

According to Hasbro, Scrabble’s manufacturer, Butts wanted to combine chance and the skill of solving challenging crossword puzzles, like the ones in the New York Times. Initial sales were not a smash, but the out-of-work inventor didn’t quit.

The tide supposedly turned when the then-president of the Macy’s corporation played his first game of Scrabble while on vacation in the early 1950s. He was so impressed with it that he ordered the game to be sold in his stores. From there, the familiar game with lettered tiles caught on.

Hasbro reports that today one in every three American households has a version of the game. And Scrabble has branched out to offer computer software, online play (at games.com, exclusively) and even a children’s version of the game.

There are Scrabble-like games available both in stores and online; but for the Girardins, there is only one Scrabble. “Mike and my son, Roger, don’t enjoy other games such as UpWords,” says Muriel. “I had a lot of fun with it, but we stopped playing because they didn’t think it was challenging enough. But I’d have to agree that we do like the original best.”

For the Lewiston couple, Scrabble is as much about getting together with loved ones as it is about the game. “We came from large families,” explains Muriel. “Playing Scrabble is something that we can do together. It’s a common thread throughout our busy lives. It brings us together.”

As for the game itself, Mike has his reasons for playing it for almost four decades. “Well, the first time I actually played, I won. So, yeah, I liked it. It’s a mind game. You have to use your brain. It’s great to do as a family, though. Whenever we have a big get-together, we pull it out. Sometimes we have to have two boards because even playing in teams, there are just too many of us for one game.”

The love of the word game was passed on to the Girardins’ children: son Roger and daughter Pat. Roger started playing by the time he was 10. “I was around it all the time. I grew up with it and even before I actually played, I think I loved it. What’s great about Scrabble is that even though it is the same game, each time we play, it’s different. It’s all about how it’s played. The challenge of Scrabble is one of the things that make it so good.”

Recently, the Girardin children have had the opportunity to pass on their love for the game to the next generation. Pat Roy, the Girardins’ daughter, who lives in Portland, has a 15-year old son, Alex, who not only plays, but has participated on family teams during Scrabble competitions. And Roger is now playing the family favorite with his own son, Jared, who’s 13. Most of the family recalls the days when Jared would look up at the table while on tiptoes to watch the family members play. Now he’s taking on the challenge of playing his dad.

ScrabbleFest winners

“I’m good with words,” Jared says. “During the summer, I play a bit with Dad. I have even beaten him a few times.”

But does having so many good players in one family cause any sort of tension among them? Roger and his parents chuckle. Although he tries to deny his mother’s claims that he’s the most competitive player, he eventually admits, “Yeah, I play to win. I certainly don’t get angry if I lose…”

“Well, maybe just a little,” teases Muriel.

Roger shrugs his shoulders. “Why bother playing, if not to win, right?”

The Girardins are multi-year winners of the area’s ScrabbleFest. The event is sponsored by Literacy Volunteers – Androscoggin, the new name for the Literacy Volunteers of Lewiston-Auburn. Each year, the organization accepts teams of four people each who seek sponsors and donations to raise money to help eliminate illiteracy in the area. This year, the local Literacy Volunteers group hopes that at least 20 teams will participate in the tournament scheduled for Sunday, April 17, in the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn.

Of course, the Girardins will be there to share their passion for the game and to contribute to the community.

“I was more proud of the fact that we raised about $2,700 for the organization than I was about winning,” Roger says. “Jared is joining us for the first time this year. He watched it all last year and is now ready to get in on it all. The tournament has been getting a little bigger every year. I hope that we get a lot of teams to participate. It would be a lot of fun.”


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